Music can take you places Ann-Marie Hildebrandt has always had that belief. But sometimes it takes you to places that you don't expect.
Early on, for example, if Hildebrandt thought about appearing at Carnegie Hall, it would have been as a classical pianist. Never would she have thought she'd be there, billed as a Celtic singer, putting together an improv opera with 20 other singers from 20 different genres, under the direction of Bobby McFerrin.
But that's exactly what happened.
Hildebrandt came to music at a young age starting piano lessons at age 3. She had every intention of being a classical pianist, until about halfway through her studies at Juilliard when she discovered that her true passion was traditional Irish music.
And that's when her musical journey changed directions.
She studied ear training and taught it at Juilliard for five years, but she also began playing on the New York folk music circuit as well. She began doing choral arrangements for her Manhattan LDS ward choir. She taught herself to play the Celtic harp and the Irish fiddle. She got into jazz.
Now living in Sandy and a single mother of two sons, she has continued to teach, to produce inspirational music and to explore new directions.
One of those directions was the project with McFerrin.
It was a five-day workshop for singers of varying vocal styles including everything from Brazilian jazz, French pop, South American folk, Sufi, Beatbox, Afro-Latin blues, Jewish/Middle Eastern, Western opera and Irish that culminated in an opera based on the story of the Tower of Babel.
"It was a lot of fun," Hildebrandt says. "Bobby is an amazingly talented person. And it was fun to see how he evolved as he worked with us. At first he just told us what to do, but in the end he got to know each of our strengths and used them."
The strengths she brought to the project, she says, were harmony, the ability to sustain the long tones. "They said my voice was like the dawn."
But what was exciting, she says, is that "the music was totally different every time. I never had an 'Irish part.' I just had to fit myself into what was going on, weave the melody around the other sounds. It was challenging at first, but it was a satisfying and growing experience."
Hildebrandt will be going back to the Carnegie to participate in a different institute in the fall. "This will be a teaching program, developing teaching concerts in three different musical styles Indian, Irish and classical music for first- and second-graders."
It will involve a lot of sing-alongs, dances, hand motions. "One of the most important connections you can have with music," she says, "is to have fun." That's important for kids to learn. Music is also an exciting way to "give them a greater view of the world, an appreciation of different cultures."
Celtic music has also taken Hildebrandt in the direction of choral music. "I've always been somewhat of a loner musically," she says. She liked to do her own thing. "But I came up with the idea that I don't have to be alone."
She held auditions, selected a group of 12 women, and formed a Celtic choir she calls Citrine, after the precious gem. It sings Irish, Scottish and English music, covers pop songs and does some of her original compositions.
"I try to take it in different directions than choirs usually go. The music is different. The arrangements are different." You'll hear influences of pop or alternative music maybe more than classical or jazz, but "it draws a lot of traditional Irish music. We have a pure, clear sound, not much vibrato, a lot of blending."
Hildebrandt doesn't stand in front of the choir. "I play the piano and what I play is not written down, so it's different every time. So, they have to be able to react to that."
The choir, which has appeared at the Scottish Festival and the Saratoga Splash, will be doing a free concert at the Brigham Young Historic Park on Friday and will appear in Lehi, Payson, Midvale later on. (A complete schedule, as well as samples of the music, can be found at her Web sites, www.amhmusic.com or www.myspace.com/citrinevoices.)
Hildebrandt has recently had some of her choral music accepted by Hinshaw Publishing, one of the nation's largest choral publishers (it is the American publisher for John Rutter), so she's very excited about that development.
"It represents a departure for them, because they are very classical based, but they want to delve into new territory and attract more of the high school market, which they hope my songs will do."
She has also published a songbook that accompanies her CD, "At Jesus' Knee," which contains her arrangements of LDS Primary songs. "They tell me it's a bestseller at Day Murray Music."And there are other projects on the horizon. Because one thing Hildebrant has learned about music is that wherever it takes her, that's where she wants to go. "I've always been fascinated by music, and the more I do it, the more I have to do it. It's my love, my passion."
If you go . . .
What: Ann-Marie Hildebrandt and Citrine Choir
Where: Brigham Young Historic Park
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]